Evacuating can be the most stressful decision when a hurricane is barreling toward your area. To make the evacuation as stress-free as possible, disaster experts advise residents to decide early whether to leave. Recent studies indicate it can take 10 times longer than normal to get to a destination during an evacuation. Of course, a lot of questions arise during an evacuation. Here are some answers based on interviews with local and national disaster experts:
Monitor local radio and television stations or go to a news Web site to learn whether officials have ordered evacuations. Waiting until the last minute will only add to the time it takes to reach your destination. Last-minute evacuees could end up in hurricane shelters or stuck in their cars when the storm makes landfall.
Before you leave, check with neighbors to see whether they need a ride or other help.
Local authorities and forecasters will decide which neighborhoods could be vulnerable to storm surge. Experts say it's imperative that coastal residents know which flood zone they are in so they aren't surprised by a call to evacuate. Those who live in mobile homes should evacuate for even Category 1 hurricanes.
Find out whether you live in a flood zone:
(Polk County does not have evacuation zones.)
How far do I need to evacuate?
Tens of miles, not hundreds of miles.
Homeowners who don't live in flood zones should stay unless their homes are too old or dilapidated to safely endure the storm.
Be prepared and be patient. Learn the best evacuation routes. Routes off the main interstates and highways can be a lot faster during an evacuation. Write down telephone numbers of places you might go, and stay in touch with them during the trip. Bring maps in case you must take alternative routes.
Plan early. Airlines move aircraft out of the area long before a storm makes landfall, and airports usually close well in advance of a storm.
Michael Lindell, director of the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center at Texas A&M University, said a recent study indicates the average household spends $262.57 per day during an evacuation. However, most of the evacuees who responded to the survey said they didn't have to spend money for lodging because they stayed with family or friends or at vacation homes.
Pillows and blankets
Enough cash to survive if the storm knocks out power for a few days
A three-day supply of medication
A battery-powered radio
Important papers such as insurance policies
Any medical records you keep at home
Books, puzzles, games